Academic journal article Educational Technology & Society

Collaborative Inquiry with a Web-Based Science Learning Environment: When Teachers Enact It Differently

Academic journal article Educational Technology & Society

Collaborative Inquiry with a Web-Based Science Learning Environment: When Teachers Enact It Differently

Article excerpt


With a burgeoning volume of work on the integration of Information and Communications Technology (ICT) tools into science education, much research has explored students' learning processes and performances in the ICT-facilitated science classroom (Buckley et al., 2004; Jacobson & Archodidou, 2000). Recently, research focus has been placed on investigating the relationship between teacher attributes (e.g., technological pedagogical content knowledge, beliefs and attitudes) and their teaching practices with the intention to improve the quality of ICT-facilitated instruction (Song & Looi, 2012; Voogt et al., 2013). Despite the rapid technological advances, pedagogically effective and sustainable use of ICT tools in education is still far from reality (Dimitriadis, 2010). In the ICT-facilitated classroom, teachers need to coordinate ICT and non-ICT activities and artifacts, and handle different levels of social interactions (Dillenbourg, Jarvela, & Fischer, 2009). Hence, Teacher Enactment (TE) of the ICT-facilitated lessons in the classrooms has been regarded as a critical indicator for evaluating teacher performance on ICT integration in the classroom.

An in-depth understanding of teacher practices is indeed crucial for the successful implementation of ICT-based initiatives, yet most studies only employed self-reported teaching beliefs and practices as the sources of evidence to probe these issues (Mama & Hennessy, 2013). The dominance of and constraints inherent in survey studies motivate an in-depth investigation of TE of ICT-facilitated science lessons by directly observing the actual happenings in the classroom. This study attempts to represent, interpret and compare the TEs by two experienced teachers of a lesson design that incorporated the Collaborative Science Inquiry (CSI) learning environment. Through fine-grained analysis of classroom practices, the commonalities and differences in TEs and student performances were identified. The findings can inform the effective use of ICT tools in science instruction via bridging the gap between the intended lessons and their actual enactment.

An overview of the CSI learning environment

Incorporating multiple features that support collaborative science inquiry, CSI is designed to help secondary school students (Grade 7-11) develop sophisticated understanding of scientific concepts, scientific skills (i.e., modeling skills) and reflective thinking skills (Sun & Looi, 2013). CSI consists of two functional modules: Teacher Module and Student Module. Teacher Module encompasses four sections including Subject Management, Project Management, Simulation Library, and Solutions Review, with which teachers can design instructions and questions, attach simulations, manage groups, and review learning artifacts. Figure 1 illustrates the interface of "Project Management" used to create and manage inquiry-based projects. The inquiry phases of Overview, Contextualize, Question & Hypothesize (Q&H), Pre-Model, Investigate, Model, Reflect and Apply are incorporated. Teachers can select an intended inquiry phase, instantiate it with specific content and instructions, and employ modeling or visualization tools depending on the lesson objectives.

Student Module is comprised of Profile, My Project, Group Management, and Mailbox. The main tool "My Project" consists of four panes: inquiry phases, shared workspace, group members, and chat tool. Student inquiry is guided by the inquiry phases laid out on the tool bar (Figure 2). The shared workspace stores the content and tools for completing tasks at each phase. The embedded Computer-Supported Collaborative Learning (CSCL) design elements (e.g., shared workspace, chat tool, peer review, and social presence) enable students to do various forms of collaboration during the inquiry activities.

Theoretical framework

Pedagogical model of CSI learning environment

The design of CSI is motivated by the educational benefits brought about by model-based science inquiry and CSCL. …

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